By The Book

I have recently been questioning the British military system and procedure which is in place for supporting soldiers who plan to terminate their service and transition back into the civilian world.


The Career Transition Partnership (CTP) comprises of the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and global career development and outplacement specialists Right Management and provides resettlement support to eligible service leavers.

The resettlement programme is designed to help personnel leaving the armed forces to prepare for entering the civilian job market and to make a successful transition to employment, or achieve the wider vocational outcome they seek.
http://www.gov.uk/guidance/information-for-service-leavers


 

So the British Ministry of Defence do have a system in place for supporting veterans through the transition from soldier to civilian, but how does it work?

 


Provision of resettlement starts up to 2 years before an individual is due to leave the armed forces and continues for up to 2 years post discharge. In the case of wounded injured and sick (WIS) personnel, this timeline can be longer, depending on the nature of their condition and the medical pathway. This provision is graduated and dependent upon the length of time they have served. –
http://www.gov.uk/guidance/information-for-service-leavers


 

From my personal experience of terminating my service with the British Army, I have only ever seen one years provision prior to a soldiers termination.


Resettlement is delivered in 3 stages:

1st line at unit/ship/station level; the service leaver makes initial contact with a resettlement Information Staff Officer, who will provide information on what is available, give administrative support and direct the service leaver to the help and assistance he/she can receive within the system

2nd line; the next stage in the resettlement process is provided by the single services on a regional basis through a Service Resettlement Adviser to give advice and guidance on the resettlement package which will best suit the service leavers employment/vocational needs

3rd line; the third stage in resettlement compromises tri-service support provided by the CTP. – www.gov.uk/guidance/information-for-service-leavers


 

From conversing with other veterans, I know that this resettlement system is in place, to some extent. Albeit, personally I have never had any of that support but before I completely and unfairly tear apart the MOD’s resettlement procedure, I will have to admit that I was on operations for six months of my final year serving and maybe I should have been more proactive in requesting this support.

According to the MOD, there is such systems and procedures in place for assisting veterans in the transition from soldier to civilian but does it work?

On Thursday evening, I had a conversation in regards to this topic with a fellow veteran who served with the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment on both Op Herrick 15 and Op Herrick 20 in Afghanistan.

I would like to introduce you to Mike Gunnie Savage.

Mike against a wall

 

Why did you join the army, Mike?

“Ever since I was young, I looked up to soldiers. Fast, strong, clever and ferociously aggressive yet compassionate all at the same time – I had a troubled childhood and maybe I felt that it would make me all of the above”

“I always felt like I needed more or like there was something more waiting for me. Initially, I was denied entry due to medical grounds but after I had allowed myself to get on with my life roughly six years later, I still had that yearning. So I paid for medical tests privately and then passed my medical and selection”.

 

What was it that finalised your decision to leave the army?

“I think it was a combination of things. Primarily, the wife and I were trying for kids by means of IVF. Unfortunately, she had a miscarriage whilst I was deployed to Afghanistan on Op Herrick 20 and after that, I realised that maybe now there were other people in my life that needed me. My wife and I struggled a lot with the stress of the constant flipping between being operational and returning to a peachy MOB. Therefore, I left the army in August 2015”

 

How did you prepare for the transition to the ‘civilian world’?

“Adequately I would say – I was coming up to the age of twenty-nine with a lot of years as a ‘civvy’ under my belt, so I would have always been somewhat prepared. I had a great job lined up and already had a house with the wife. I tried to do everything by the book, paperwork wise, for my military termination. Although, I was messed around somewhat. I just kept telling myself and reminding myself I had made the right decision, however scary and exciting this period was.”

“I made sure I went to the resettlement stuff as well, even though I had everything prepared for my transition or so I thought.”

 

So you did everything by the book as per the MOD’s resettlement program, how did you actually find your transition from soldier to civi, was the transition smooth?

“Not at all in regards to the job being lined up. The people involved disappeared, so now I had no job. I wouldn’t have left the army if I didn’t have it lined up perfectly. So I had to think of what to do next and work part-time to pay my bills. I got myself a manual labour job with a tree surgeon and I also started working at Wicks. I then decided to go to college to achieve the necessary skills to become a mechanic. Working two jobs whilst going to College and renovating my house was not cool. Prior to that, I was also messed around by the chain of command, not my immediate line but hierarchy – To the point of being told that I would be leaving an office through a window for pointing out the person who had lied to me was in fact, the person telling me I was lied to”.

 

You did everything by the army’s guidelines to leaving the army, yet things didn’t go to plan and the army turned their back on you. Now you are a Mechanic, how is this working out for you?

“My immediate chain always had my back so fair play to them, it was actually a number other things that let me down. For example, I never had a medical prior to leaving, I never signed my room back and I had my number plates removed from my vehicle on camp because I was “parked illegally” during my last week of being in the army. I feel that they turned their back on me to some extent after they had tried to make me stay and then they realised that I had already made my mind up. I never got into any trouble and I did well in my career so the betrayal was upsetting, to be honest”.

“I’m fine now, things are going great at work and we are financially stable but only really due to the support of my wife. She also had a job so she obviously had control of the bills. She helped me to learn a lot of things that I feel the army should have given me a brief on before transitioning to ‘civvy street’.”

“My basic knowledge of normal life wasn’t quite sufficient to dive straight into paying for a mortgage, two cars and other regular bills. Without that support from friends and family, I have no doubt that a lot of people would struggle with this.”

 

Would you recommend this line of work to other veterans?

“Yes I would recommend this line of work, its physical at times and it contains a lot of troubleshooting to keep the mind busy. There’s lots of opportunity for starting your own business, however, it can be extremely stressful. Cars are not going away anytime soon and you save a fortune maintaining your own vehicles, so a double win there”.

 

Although you attended these resettlement briefings and you did everything by the book, I feel that you were still unprepared because the Ministry of Defence failed to educate you about mortgages and paying the bills. Granted that you could take this upon yourself to research, do you believe that the MOD could have provided you with more relevant briefs on things like this?

“Yes, relative briefs because my briefs ended being rushed due to an administrative FUBAR (F**ked Up Beyond All Recognition). I don’t feel that the information I received would have been enough to live in the civilian world. Normal bills like fuel, food, phone, electricity, gas, water, car insurance, car tax, car maintenance, mortgage or rent, council tax, home insurance, clothing and normal things like booking leave in advance and not being told you’re off work for a week”.

“There is a lot of information they miss in the resettlement program. In basic training, you are taught to be a soldier but there’s no training to leave in order to become a civilian”.

 

If you could give one piece of advice to a soldier who is preparing to leave the Armed Forces, what would you say?

“Pick up the phone and talk to someone who has done it. Get the gen, get a heads up and secure an ERV (Emergency Rendezvous) just in case your patrol goes tits up and as always remain flexible. Veterans need to apply certain skills and military elements to the rest of their lives, do not burn bridges” – Mike Gunnie Savage.

Mike in the Prone

 

I feel that the MOD’s ‘Resettlement Program’ definitely needs some attention. There are certain elements of the program that I believe need reshaping.

For Example; When a soldier proceeds through the process of leaving the armed forces, he or she is usually advised by an RCMO (Regimental Career Management Officer) in preparation for the transition from soldier to civilian. However, in my opinion, and with no disrespect to any current serving RCMO, I fail to understand how a soldier who has served twenty odd years in the military can give any advice about the transition to ‘civvy street’ having spent all that time in the military and not actually having gone through the transition at first hand.

Imagine how much more beneficial it would be for a soldier to hear sound advice from a veteran who has actually experienced the transition from soldier to civi.

This is just one example of many that I feel needs addressing. Over the course of the next few years, I am determined to join forces with other veterans in order to study and reshape the ‘Resettlement Program’ for the benefit of future veterans.

So that leaves us with one last question.

What changes would you like to see within the MOD Resettlement Program?

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this week’s blog, I really appreciate the continued support.

I am keen to hear your thoughts and opinions on this subject matter, so please feel free to leave a comment below.

Take care, keep low and move fast

Jamie R Kennedy and featured veteran, Mike Gunnie Savage


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